Half-Way to McDonalds

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If Tencent’s goal is to equal McDonald’s, in having served 1 Billion (hamburgers), then they’re half way there with over 570 Million registered QQ Instant Messaging (IM) accounts.  Founded in 1998, Tencent has more than 2x the number of Facebook users, and 20x the number on Twitter.  Yet no one in the West has heard of them, and only in January did they launch an English version of their MSN-esq web-portal website, IMQQ.com.  As I highlighted in my “Micro-Blogging in China” post yesterday on Harvard’s Internet & Democracy blog, Western media focus on Chinese access to Facebook and Twitter is only noteworthy to the extent that such services are used both domestically in contentious regions, and followed outside of such regions.  As outlined in their study, “Mapping the Arabic Blogosphere,” Bruce Etling, John Palfrey, and John Kelly of Morningside Analytics discuss the importance of “Bridge Bloggers” in the Levant and Maghreb who transcend linguistic divides.  In the same way, continuous Chinese access to Twitter is only necessary insofar that Twitter provides a bridge platform that some users on both sides of the Chinese Firewall pay attention to.  Today Twitter is a politically transcendent bridge, and for that it’s useful. Perhaps tomorrow, with more and more Americans learning Mandarin, Uighur in Xinjiang will be as enthralled in the periodic updates of Californians on Komoo.cn.

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